Eighth graders from Urbana Schools participated in a “Real Money. Real World. Simulation.” Students were assigned a career, a monthly salary and a specific number of children. Each student visited the various booths making spending choices based on their family situation hoping they would have enough money to make ends meet at the end of the month.
The program includes four classroom lessons to prepare students to assume the role of a 27-year-old adult who is the primary income provider for a family. They received an occupation, monthly salary, and the number of children they are raising. Students learned to subtract savings, taxes, and health insurance premiums from their monthly income. The amount of money left over is what they spend during the simulation activity. Students spend their money at booths staffed by OSU Extension and community volunteers on items typically found in a monthly budget including housing, utilities, groceries, insurance, child care and transportation. Throughout the activity, students kept track of their finances and attempted to complete the simulation with a positive balance.
The program is a product of The Ohio State University and was organized for the community by Extension Educator Melinda Morrison in collaboration with 8th grade teacher Amanda Goodwin.
One of the biggest surprises to participants was the cost of child care. One youth, who came into the simulation with only a $1,800 monthly salary and two children, was discouraged to discover at the child care booth that day care for his two children would be over $880. However, the student was able to receive a 2nd job after learning that “giving his children back” was not an option.
Some students learned how important it is to get an education. One stated, “ I may not like school, but I don’t want to struggle like this when I am older. My education is important.”
Students also learned that if they purchased a car at the Transportation booth but failed to go directly to the Insurance booth, they received a ticket because it is illegal to drive without insurance.
During the post-simulation lesson, students reflected on their experiences and what they learned by completing a self-assessment. The students thoroughly enjoyed their experience but were shocked at how hard it was to meet a monthly budget. Many had newfound respect for their parents and what they deal with on a daily basis. At the end of the experience, student comments included “Kids are expensive,” “I need to stay in school and graduate in order to get a better job later,” “Life is a whole lot harder than I thought,” and “I need to get the important stuff out of the way first.”
As reported in a “Real Money. Real World. Follow-up” study across Ohio, students reported significant changes in their financial behavior after the program. Over 80 percent of participants reported changes in the extent to which they now repay money owed on time, set aside money for the future, and compare prices. Over three-fourths of student indicated they now think more carefully about spending money.
If you would like more information about the “Real Money. Real World. Program,” please contact Melinda Morrison at the Champaign County Extension Office.
Submitted by OSU Extension, Champaign County.